By Name Withheld, posted Sept. 2, 2015

I don’t pretend to have all the answers to some of life’s great questions, that have vexed some and caused others to live ascetic lives, perhaps in a monastery or convent; that have plagued philosophers and thinkers for ages; and that have resulted in some opting for a life of service while others pursue a life of acquisition and hedonism, or drugs and nihilism.

What I do have is a system that seems to work for me.

I have several friends who do not share that system. Some are agnostic, some likely atheists. Some had a similar Christian Protestant upbringing, some not.

As an aside, some of those individuals also differ politically, and we have disparate global and national views.

One might ask, why remain friends with people who, on a core level, are so different?

My rejoinder is, on a core level, we are all very similar.

As Shakespeare has Shylock say (to a couple of taunting Christians) in Act 3, scene I, 58-68 of “The Merchant of Venice”: “I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions; fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer, as a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die? And if you wrong us, do we not revenge? If we are like you in the rest, we will resemble you in that.”

I try to find commonality with friends and family.

One friendship dates from high school where, for a time, we were classmates.

Then our paths diverged, and he became an entrepreneur, whereas I took the road more traveled. Perhaps not coincidentally, I still work (albeit part time), whereas he is fully retired. Which reminds me of something Einstein once said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.”

We meet on occasion, often on the tennis court, sometimes over a meal, and I am always glad to see him because he is someone from my past whom I recall with not a little fondness. We played ping-pong together after class in academy. We recall some of the same classmates. Yet he and I don’t see eye-to-eye on political or spiritual matters.

Most of my siblings and I are at polar opposites politically. I’ve wondered from time to time why that is, and admit to being baffled. We were raised by the same parents and had similar exposure growing up; attended similar (if not the same) schools. Yet they evolved into the people they are, and I into whom I am. I have great affection for them, not least of all because of fond memories we share. We have history together. In truth, particularly since the demise of our parents and our consequent orphan status, we are parts of each other’s respective histories. Past efforts by both of us to modify each other’s respective political views have met with failure, so I try to steer clear of incendiary issues, especially at national election time. I also try to remember the Japanese proverb: ‘Even a piece of paper has two sides.’

I have one friend whom I’ve known for decades. We share much history. I respect his intellect and wide-ranging abilities and interests. Our political and spiritual sensibilities are also not at eye level.

Once in a while, he forwards me something by e-mail which tells me that, somewhere within, perhaps deeply positioned, despite his professed agnosticism, goodness dwells (and, as another friend once put it, in his opinion, all goodness comes from God).

I recommend this link (sent by the friend):

It lasts less than three minutes. This is in no way intended as an endorsement of the life insurance company that made it, but the message of the video is one that resonates with me, and will, I’m quite sure, with you.